PCP Rehab Today receive many calls from family members who are worried their loved one has a gambling problem or addiction. Just like any other addiction, gambling addiction starts in the brain and its response to a stimulus. Just because a substance is not involved as such, does not mean that gambling addiction is any easier to overcome than say addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Gambling addiction is rarely recognised as a life-threatening condition. The reality is that a gambling addict can become so powerless to resist the compulsion to gamble that they lose everything and more.

Strained relationships, deceit, stress, mounting debt and living in fear of being found out can all contribute to a gambling addict harbouring feelings of low self-worth, hopelessness, shame and guilt. These feelings can build and build to a point where a gambling addict sees taking their own life as a valid solution.

Problem Gamblers 15 Times More At Risk of Suicide

A recent academic study conducted by Lund University in Sweden found that problem gamblers are 15 times more at risk of suicide. The study, which is the largest to be conducted of its kind, monitored more than 2,000 individuals suffering from problem gambling over an 11 year period.

If these statistics were applied to the UK, this could equate to 550 suicides from problem gambling in the UK a year.

Problem gambling when chronic is termed as gambling disorder, pathological gambling, compulsive gambling or gambling addiction.

So, what drives an individual to compulsively gamble to a point where they lose their home, relationships, the trust of family and friends and even their health?

Inside The Brain of A Gambling Addict

To gain a better understanding as to what drives a gambling addict to continue gambling despite mounting negative consequences and debt, The BBC broadcast a documentary using an MRI scanner to track a gambling addicts brain activity whilst placing a bet.

The findings prove that gambling stimulates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated in alcoholism and drug addiction (in a gambling addict). A near win produces the same euphoric high as an actual win for someone who is addicted to gambling.

The Science Behind Compulsive Gambling

Gambling addicts are addicted to the feel-good chemicals that the brain releases whilst they are actively engaging in a gamble. Win or lose, the anticipation of a win still stimulates the relevant brain receptors that flood the brain with endorphins and dopamine – producing a euphoric high.

The brain’s reward system recognises this as a way to feel good, connected to initial winning and anticipation. With repeated exposure to gambling, the problem becomes more chronic and progressive as structural changes occur in the brain over time. These changes essentially hardwire the sufferer to compulsively seek rewards through gambling.

A compulsive gambler will chase the win at all costs, regardless of what they stand to lose as a result.

Do You Have A Gambling Problem?

Gambling addiction is now recognised by mental health workers, addiction specialists, doctors and scientists around the world. If you are worried that you or a loved one may be suffering from gambling addiction there are signs and symptoms to watch out for.

Signs and symptoms of gambling addiction include:

●    Spending more money than you can afford on gambling

●    Your gambling is causing arguments and problems in your relationships with family and loved ones

●    You actively try to hide the amount of money and time you are spending on gambling

●    Even when you win you are unable to walk away and end up betting all the money until it is gone

●    You find it hard to control your gambling, perhaps getting it under control for short periods of time before it spirals out of control once more.

●    You often feel guilty and ashamed of your gambling

●    Spending money that doesn’t belong to you on gambling

●    Feeling anxious and fearful about being found out

●    Mounting debt due to your gambling

●    Gambling larger sums of money to recoup losses

●    Loss of interest in previous hobbies and in spending time with friends and family

●    Preoccupied thinking around gambling and struggling to focus on anything else

●    Feelings of depression, anxiety and hopelessness

If you or a loved one can identify with any of the above you may well have a problem with gambling that requires professional help.

Secrets, Lies, Deceit and Debt

Bob, 58 from London who received treatment for gambling addiction and alcohol abuse from PCP, has been kind enough to share his story in the hope it will help someone else to ask for help.

The worst thing for me about my gambling was the fear of being found out and the guilt around spending so much money on it when I had a family to support. I was constantly lying to cover up my whereabouts, fabricating stories to justify where I had been.

I would get up early to hide bank statements from my wife or take them into work with me. Lunchtimes you could always find me in the bookies and more often than not, after work too.

Weekends I would take to the roulette tables. I earned good money and so at first it wasn’t a problem, but then I was taking out loans and spending them to try and win back my losses and cover up the mountain of debt I was creating.

My lowest point came when my wife and children left me. I had made so many promises to stop but was unable to keep them. I eventually attended treatment for gambling addiction after asking for help from my family. I know now that I can never gamble again. That one bet could trigger my illness.

It’s been stressful for my whole family facing up to debt, but being able to be honest about my problem has freed me from so much pain and shame. I am so grateful I am alive today and to have a chance to put things right.

When my wife and children left I felt I had nothing to live for and felt they would be better off without me. Thankfully I asked for help and we have been receiving family counselling to address the effects my gambling has had on all of us.

If You are struggling with a gambling addiction, please ask for help. I reached a point where I felt like carrying on was futile. Had I not sought help and gotten honest around my gambling, I shudder to think what action I might have taken”

Treatment For Gambling Addiction

Whilst gambling addiction cannot be cured it can be arrested and with the help of professional treatment, abstinence from gambling can then be maintained.

It is important for a gambling addict in recovery to abstain from all forms of gambling, even if a particular form was never previously a problem. This includes forms such as the lottery, scratch cards and fruit machines. What may seem a harmless pastime to others can be lethal for a problem gambler.

Gambling addiction is a recognised mental health illness that requires professional help and treatment in order to overcome. It is very unlikely to get better on its own and progressively gets worse over time.

Talking therapies and treatments for a gambling addiction that have proven to be effective include:

●    Cognitive behavioural therapy

●    Dialectical behavioural therapy

●    Psychotherapy

●    Individual counselling therapy

●    Family therapy

●    Group therapy

●    12 step therapy

●    Relapse prevention strategies

Recovery From Gambling Addiction is Possible

Successful gambling addiction treatment targets the mindset that drives the compulsion and addiction. By changing dysfunctional belief systems and adopting healthier methods of dealing with stress and emotions a gambling addict can make a full and lasting recovery.

Treatment for gambling addiction can be accessed within a private rehab on an intensive level (particularly suited to those that are unable to stop themselves from gambling and are suffering from depression) by calling freephone 0800 0380 480.

Alternatively, community support can be accessed freely by calling The National Gambling Helpline on freephone 0808 8020 133.

If you are struggling with a gambling addiction, please seek help today.

Sources:

Be Gamble Aware – https://www.begambleaware.org/gambling-problems/signs-to-look-out-for/